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For Better or Worse

What is the best way to find a husband or a wife? Should you let your family select a
mate for you or should you date many people and try to fall in love? Many cultures
have the tradition of arranged marriages. These are brought about by matchmakers
who find and introduce possible candidates to a young person at the familys request
and for a fee.

What do you think of this practice?

From the first phrase of the title, what can you infer about the authors point of view
on arranged marriages?

In the article you will find out what the Japanese mean by being wet or dry when
making a decision and how modern technology is aiding romance. Read for main ideas
and see if you change some of your opinions about the best way to select a mate.

For Better or Worse, Arranged Marriages

Still Thrive in Japan




He was a banker, Toshiko says of the first young man her parents set her up
with. He was so-o-o-o-o boring.
The second was an architect. He tried to impress her with his knowledge
of the historic hotel where they had coffee. He was wrong on almost every
point, she sniffs.
The third, for some reason, asked me a lot of questions about the
French Revolution.
Seven more followed. She turned them all down. Just twenty-six, and
seeing on the sly a boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, Toshiko was in
no hurry to get married. With her Yale diploma, her colloquial English, and her
very modern outlook on life, this rich familys daughter from Tokyo could almost
pass for a rich familys daughter from Greenwich, Connecticut.
But Tokyo isnt Greenwich. Like most unmarried women here, Toshiko
(its not her real name; her parents read this newspaper) still lives with her
mother and father. And like most parents here, they think that by the time a
young woman reaches her mid-twenties she ought to be married. About a year
ago, they began to pressure her to go through omiai, the ceremonial first
meeting in the traditional Japanese arranged marriage.
Meet and Look
It was such a drag to get up in the morning, because I knew at breakfast we
would have another fight about this, Toshiko says. I did my first omiai so I
could have some peace at home.











These days lots of young Japanese do omiai, literally, meet and look.
Many of them, unlike Toshiko, do so willingly. In todays prosperous and
increasingly conservative Japan, the traditional omiai kekkon, or arranged
marriage, is thriving.
But, there is a difference. In the original omiai, the young Japanese
couldnt reject the partner chosen by his parents and their nakodo, or
middleman. After World War II, many Japanese abandoned the arranged
marriage as part of their rush to adopt the more democratic ways of their
American conquerors. The Western renai kekkon, or love marriage, came
into vogue; Japanese began picking their own mates by dating and falling in
But the Western way was often found wanting in an important respect; It
didnt necessarily produce a partner of the right economic, social, and
educational qualifications. Todays young people are quite calculating, says
Chieko Akiyama, a social commentor.
No Strings
What seems to be happening now is a repetition of a familiar process in the
countrys history, the Japanization of an adopted foreign practice. The
Western ideal of marrying for love is accommodated in a new omiai in which
both parties are free to reject the match. Omiai is evolving into a sort of
stylized introduction, Mrs Akiyama says.
Many young Japanese now date in their early twenties, but with no
thought of marriage. When they reach the age when society decrees they
should wed - in the middle twenties for women, the late twenties for men they increasingly turn to omiai. Some studies suggest that as many as 40
percent of marriages each year are omiai kekkon. Its hard to be sure, say
those who study the matter, because many Japanese couples, when polled,
describe their marriage as a love match even if it was arranged.
These days, doing omiai often means going to a computer matching
service rather than to a nakodo. The nakodo of tradition was an old woman
who knew all the kids in the neighborhood and went around trying to pair
them off by speaking to parents; a successful match would bring her a
wedding invitation and a gift of money. But Japanese today find its less
awkward to reject a proposed partner if the nakodo is a computer.
Japan has about five hundred computer matching services. Some big
companies, including Mitsubishi, run one for their employees. At a typical
commercial service, an applicant pays $80 to $125 to have his or her
personal data stored in the computer for two years and $200 or so more if a
marriage results. The stored information includes some obvious items, like
education and hobbies, and some not-so-obvious ones, like whether a person
is the oldest child. (First sons, and to some extent first daughters, face an
obligation of caring for elderly parents.)
The customer also tells the computer service what he or she has in
mind. The men are all looking for good-looking women, and the women are
all looking for men who can support them well, says a counselor at one
Whether generated by computer or nakodo, the introduction follows a
ritual course. The couple, who have already seen each others data and
picture, arrive at a coffee shop or computer-service meeting room
accompanied by their parents and the nakodo or a representative of the







service. After a few minutes of pleasantries, the two are left to themselves. A
recent comedy movie had such a couple heading directly to one of Japans
love hotels, which offer rooms by the hour; but ordinarily it takes love a good
bit longer to flower, if it does at all.
And there still are those Japanese who consider love and marriage to
be quite separate things. Here, in brief, are how three arranged marriages of
the past twenty-five years unfolded.
The Asamis
Munehiro Asami was a twenty-eight-year-old office worker at a machine-parts
company. I had a friend from childhood whose mother was very pushy, he
says. One day she stomped into my room and took a picture of me out of my
picture album. She also left an omiai picture of a lady. I was to meet this girl
and I didnt want to go.
Neither did the woman. She was Reiko Ohtsuka, a twenty-three-yearold part-time office worker. She recalls how she half jokingly agreed to the
meeting, then asked if it was too late to change her
mind. It was.
But all was for the best, apparently. Mr Asami
warmly remembers the ritual as like being
introduced to a cute girl by your friend. Miss
Ohtsuka discovered that her worries about what to
talk about were unfounded. We dated for four
months, she says, fell in love, and got married.
The Watanabes
In 1972 he was five years out of Tokyo University,
Japans Harvard. He was working for a big Tokyo
bank. And, reflecting his heavy work schedule and a
certain Japanese shyness, he had never had a date.

Mr Watanabe - he doesnt want to be identified further - always intended

to marry through omiai. Its a good system, he says, because the partners
dont waste time on someone who doesnt meet their specifications. Its also
realistic, he adds: In love marriages, the two look only at each others good
105 points: We calculate the bad as well.
Mr Watanabe was looking for a wife who, first and foremost, would get
along with my father. To that end, he asked for someone from his home
prefecture of Yamanashi. He also wanted a wife who wouldnt have to support
her parents. Being himself a second son, he could qualify for a woman who
110 was also looking for a mate free of parental obligations.
Thus, after an introduction through his uncle, did Mr Watanabe marry a
second daughter from his hometown in early 1973. They now have two
children. Everyone wants to get married through love, but not everyone can,
Mr Watanabe says.
The Japanese like to think they are wet (emotional) compared with
dry (rational) Westerners. But Mr Watanabe thinks that when it comes to
marriage, we Japanese are dry.
The Azumas
Kikuko Azuma, who found her husband through omiai twenty-five years ago,
120 says the custom is still the shortest, most convenient way. She is
recommending it to her twenty-two-year-old daughter.






Mrs Azuma was

only twenty and just
out of junior college
when she wed. But
she was eager to
study in the United
States and by
coincidence was
introduced to a
twenty-seven-yearold trading company
executive about to
be transferred to
New York. He was
from a well-to-do
f a m i l y, a n d M r s
Azuma recalls from being chauffeured to the omiai at an expensive Western
restaurant. I admired his social status, she says.
Then too, her own parents were having marital difficulties, and she
feared that if they divorced she would seem a less desirable catch in a future
omiai. So she had to move quickly, even though at twenty I hadnt given
much thought to getting married.
Didnt she love him? Love and marriage are different, Mrs Azuma
replies firmly. I think after you get married, love eventually emerges. Does
her husband of twenty-five years agree? I dont know, she says. I dont
really know him very well.

These is one other omiai success story to report. It is about Toshiko, the
sophisticate who opened this article. After coolly dismissing ten young
men sent her way, she was intrigued by Number 11, a physician who had
worked in Africa. A friend says he was the first guy Toshiko had met whom
she found intellectually compatible and who, more importantly, wasnt
intimidated by her.
Toshiko herself isnt available for comment. She is in Fiji making
wedding preparations.
Urban c. Lehner
The Wall Street Journal

After You Read

Focus on Testing
Improving Your Chances on Multiple-Choice Exams
Multiple choice is a common format on objective exams. You can use the following
exercise to practice your strategy for this type of test. Do the exercise without looking
back at the reading, as if this were an exam. Here are some tips to help you.
1. There is usually a time limit during a test, so first quickly look through the whole
exercise and do the items you are sure of.
2. Next, if there is no penalty for guessing, take a guess at the remaining ones.
Generally, if you are uncertain, choose an option in the middle, either b or c, rather
than a or d. These tend to be used more for correct answers. If you are just
guessing, keep the same letter consistently. Long statements in multiple choice tend
to be true.
3. Afterward, go back to the reading, scan for the answers, and correct your work.
Choose the best way of finishing each statement, based on what you have just read.
1. The literal translation of the Japanese word omiai is ............................
a. ceremonial introduction
b. meet and look
c. computer wedding
d. arranged marriage
2. In order to use the new commercial services for omiai, a person must ........................
a. divorce
b. arranged marriage
c. love marriage
d. church wedding

3. In order to use the new commercial services for omiai, a person must ........................
a. pay money
b. belong to a noble family
c. go to a love hotel
d. all of the above
4. Many Japanese do not want to marry ..........................
a. an oldest child
b. a youngest child
c. a middle child
d. a twin
5. The reason that this position in the family makes the person a less desirable
marriage partner is that he or she ........................
a. is usually very spoiled and arrogant
b. does not inherit any money or property
c. has to take care of his or her parents when they are older
d. must make all the food
6. In comparison with the time right after World War II, the practice of arranged
marriages in Japan now seems to be ........................
a. decreasing
b. increasing
c. about the same
d. completely finished

Explaining the meaning of Expression and Phrases. Find each phrase or

expression in italics in the reading and guess what it means by looking at its context. Then
write a short explanation of it.
1. He was wrong on almost every point, .... (line 4)
2. She turned them all down. .... (line 9)
3. Just twenty-six, and seeing on the sly .... (line 8 - 9)
4. .... a boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, .... (line 9)
5. It was such a drag to get up in the morning .... (line 20)

6. .... love marriage, came into vogue; .... (line 32 - 32)


Finding Support for General Ideas. Find specific facts, statistic, and examples from
the article to support the following general ideas.
1. In todays prosperous and increasingly conservative Japan, the traditional omiai
kekkon, or arranged marriage, is thriving.
2. What seems to be happening now is a repetition of a familiar process in the
countrys history, the Japanization of an adopted foreign practice.
3. The Japanese like to think they are wet (emotional) compared with dry (rational)
Westerners. But Mr Watanabe thinks that when it comes to marriage, we
Japanese are dry.

Drawing Conclusions from a Chart. You can find specifics to support generalizations
or you can do the reverse: make generalizations on the basis of specifics. The chart
Months for Weddings in the U.S. gives specific statistics. Read the chart and write C in
front of the one generalization that correctly describes the data. Write I in front of the
others, which are incorrect.
Top 10 Months for Weddings in the U.S.




1 June


6 October


2 August


7 December


3 May


8 April


4 July


9 November


5 September


10 February


Source : National Center for Health Statistics

Figures are from 1992 from a U.S. total of some 2,362,000 weddings, a decrease of 9000 from 1991.
March is at No. 11 with 145,000, and January is last with 112,000.

................... 1.!

Most Americans get married at Christmastime.

................... 2.!

Americans do not care which month they get married in.

................... 3.!

Americans prefer to marry in months that begin with the letter J.

................... 4.!

Americans prefer warm weather for weddings.

................... 5.!

Americans prefer cold weather for weddings.

Talk It Over
In small groups, discuss the following questions.
1. According to the article, at what age is a woman expected to marry in Japan? A
man? What do you think is the ideal age to marry? Why?
2. What are some of the advantages of arranged marriages? What are some of the
3. Do you think that arranged marriages are more or less likely to end in divorce?
4. Does everyone have to get married? Can some people remain single and still lead
a happy and complete life? Explain your opinion.
5. Did reading the article give you any new information? Did it change your views on
how to select a marriage partner? Explain.

Looking at Love. Take a fresh look at love by reading the following poem by the
English poet Alfred Edward Housman (1859 - 1936). Like many English poems, this one
uses rhyme, the use of the same sounds at the end of the last words in certain lines (for
example: you / grew, brave / behave). Read it aloud to enjoy the rhyme and rhythm, and
take care to pronounce the word again in the second stanza in the British way (en /
ein) so that it will rhyme correctly.
Oh, When I Was in Love with You

Oh, when I was in love with you,

Then I was clean and brave,
And miles around the wonder grew
How well I did behave


And now the fancy passes by,

And nothing will remain,
And miles around theyll say that I
Am quite myself again.

Talk It Over
In small groups, discuss the following questions.
1. Do you think that love can transform a person? How? In the poem, is the transformation
permanent or temporary? Do you agree?
2. Is there a regular pattern of rhyme in the poem? Why do yo think the poet used rhyme?
What effect does it have on a reader?
3. How would you describe the tone of the poem? Do you think a woman would use this
tone when talking about love? Why and Why not?